Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators
Harness racing’s training maestro Gary Hall snr is bubbling with confidence that nine-year-old superstar pacer Chicago Bull has the ability to overcome a back-line draw in the $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night and give him a remarkable twelfth victory in the State’s premier pacing event.
“He has been terrific at home since the Fremantle Cup, and he is ready to win,” said Hall.
Chicago Bull had a torrid run, out three wide without cover for much of the 2536m Fremantle Cup last Friday week before wilting to finish tenth behind Minstrel.
“I’m happy with the draw (barrier No. 2 on the back line) and I expect Chicago Bull to follow out Mighty Conqueror (barrier two on the front line),” Hall said. “I expect Mighty Conqueror to lead early, but he then might not be able to hold out Hampton Banner.
“And if Chicago Bull ends up in the breeze, I reckon he will win. He has won when he has breezed, and his win from the breeze when he beat Motu Premier two starts ago was really good.”
Chicago Bull winner of 62 races and $2,351,046, will be handled by star reinsman Gary Hall jnr, who has driven the small but dynamic New Zealand-bred gelding throughout his magnificent career. Hall has driven a record eight WA Pacing Cup winners.
Chicago Bull, winner of the 2016 WA Derby, has contested the WA Pacing Cup three times, starting favourite in all three despite wide draws.
In the Cup in January 2017, he started from barrier seven and was restrained early before going forward to work in the breeze and winning by a half-length from stablemate John Of Arc. He started from the No. 9 barrier in the Cup in January 2018, was restrained early and then raced in the breeze and finished second to Soho Tribeca, and in the Cup in December 2020 he started from barrier seven, was restrained early and then raced without cover before finishing second to Vultan Tin.
Hall jnr shares his father’s optimism, saying: “I’ m happy with the horse; I think he’s flying His work last Saturday was awesome. He will do pacework tomorrow (Wednesday) , and then off we go. The draw should work out good and he won’t find the 2936m a problem. Mighty Conquerer flew out at his last start (in the Fremantle Cup), but I reckon Hampton Banner will get to the front.”
Hampton Banner, trained by Debra Lewis, has been driven by Chris Lewis at 15 of his 16 WA starts for six wins. Lewis is unavailable to drive on Friday night, and Jocelyn Young will handle the smart five-year-old. Young’s only drive behind Hampton Banner was in the WA Derby in April 2020 when he finished sixth behind Patronus Star. Lewis opted to handle Double Expresso, who finished seventh.
Gary Hall snr will also be represented in Friday night’s Cup by Balcatherine, Wildwest and Diego.
Balcatherine, to be driven by Aiden de Campo from barrier four, is racing enthusiastically, and will be seeking to become the first mare to win the WA Pacing Cup since Pyramus was successful in 1972.
Outstanding trainers Greg and Skye Bond hold a strong hand in Friday night’s event in which they will be represented by Mighty Conqueror (Colin Brown, barrier two), Minstrel (Ryan Warwick, inside of the back line) and Patronus Star (Dylan Egerton-Green, barrier three on the back line).
“Minstrel is probably our No. 1 pick,” said Greg Bond. “With clear running I expect him to be very hard to beat. Barrier ten is the shortest way home, for a start It gives Ryan (Warwick) a few options. He could stay on the fence if Miracle Moose (barrier No. 1) holds up. He could also come off the fence, if possible. That will be a decision Ryan will have to make.
“Minstrel has been working great since winning the Fremantle Cup, and I can’t fault his work at home. As long as he gets clear running, I expect him to be right in it.”
Bond also believes that seven-year-old Mighty Conqueror, winner of the Pacing Cup in January 2020 and third behind Vultan Tin in the big race in December 2020, has excellent prospects.
“Mighty Conqueror’s work since the Fremantle Cup has been strong, and Colin (Brown) is pretty upbeat about him. He knows how to mix it at this level, and the draw gives him a shot. He ran the arm from barrier eight in the Fremantle Cup and got into a good spot. If he doesn’t lead, he will be right up on the pace. “
Patronus Star impressed in the Fremantle Cup when he was 11TH at the bell before flying home, out seven wide, to finish second to Minstrel.
“He probably will settle closer (to the lead) this week than he did in the Fremantle Cup,” said Bond. “He should be able to follow Chicago Bull or Minstrel, depending on how things pan out. And this should give him a chance for a shot late.”
Emily Suvaljko (21) is looking forward to her first appearance in a WA Pacing Cup and is confident the Nathan Turvey-trained the Nathan Turvey-trained six-year-old Miracle Moose will fight out the finish.
Miracle Moose, who will start from the coveted No. 1 barrier, caused a major upset last Friday night when he sustained a powerful burst from fourth at the bell to beat the hot favourite Magnificent Storm over 2536m last Friday night.
“I’m not sure whether Miracle Moose will be able to hold out Hampton Banner, but I’m confident that he can beat out Mighty Conqueror,” said Suvaljko. “He will be thereabouts, no matter what.”
Magnificent Storm, to be driven by Aldo Cortopassi for trainer Ray Williams, has been super impressive in winning at 19 of his 24 WA starts. He has an awkward draw at barrier No. 6, but punters should be prepared to overlook his fading ninth in the Fremantle Cup when he worked hard in the breeze.
The race certainly wasn’t run to suit when Magnificent Storm was beaten into second place by Miracle Moose over 2536m last Friday night. The richly talented six-year-old has the ability to bounce back to winning form this week.
Ross Olivieri, WA’s leading trainer eight times, has fond memories of Saab winning the 1999 WA Pacing Cup on a most unseasonal summer’s night of lightning and rain. He will be looking to up-and-coming star Papinik to give him another success.
Papinik notch his 13TH win from 19 starts when he burst to the front after a lap and beat Hampton Banner over 2536m last Friday week.
Papinik will be driven by Chris Voak, who said that the middle of the road draw at barrier five was not a major concern. “I was never planning to get involved early, from any draw,” he said. “So, this doesn’t change my tactics. The draw gives us the opportunity to get on to the helmet of a nice horse like Chicago Bull.
“Hopefully, the middle half will be solid, and if the race is run at a solid pace I expect Papinik to make significant ground, late. His rise to open company this season has been as good as any, given that he has done it at his past five starts.
“He is a far stronger horse in this preparation than he has ever been before. The 2936m will certainly suit a horse who is going to have a nice trip. If the race is run like the Fremantle Cup I expect Papinik to hit the line like Patronus Star did. He has trained on in excellent style and he has improved significantly since his latest run.”